NEWCASTLE Rugby League champions Cessnock will have little chance to rest on their laurels after agreeing to host the Knights in a pre-season trial next year.
The Knights are expected to field a NSW Cup squad, supplemented by fringe first-graders, in the hit-out at Cessnock Sportsground on February 20.
Newcastle's under-15s and under-17s will play curtain-raisers before the main trial, which has replaced the pre-season fixture played at Maitland for the past three years and is likely to double as the club's annual members' season launch.
The Knights will play premiers Melbourne (away) in a full-blown NRL trial a week later.
All NRL clubs will be restricted to one trial match against NRL opposition because of the condensed pre-season.
The Goannas are yet to kick off training for 2021, and while coach Todd Edwards admits the Knights will be better prepared physically, he said his players were excited about the challenge.
"It's a bit of an ask for our boys, given that we'll probably have about five weeks to get ready for it, training two or three nights a week, whereas the Knights are virually training full-time," Edwards said.
"We'll be a bit underdone, but hopefully the game will be played in quarters instead of halves, which will even it up a bit.
"It'll be a bit of an eye-opener for our boys but I know they're all keen to show their wares against the Knights.
"It's a big test, but we'll give it our best shot and hopefully we get a decent crowd in."
The Knights' squad could feature forwards Brodie Jones and Josh King, both of whom played for the Goannas, as well as new signing Jack Johns, son of Cessnock-born former international Matthew Johns.
The Knights are considering making a trial against the Newcastle RL premiers an annual event.
"I'd like to do it every year," Knights coach Adam O'Brien said.
"Whoever wins the local comp every year gets to play the Knights in a trial game the next season.
"I think it would be good to make it an annual thing.
"It's important that we get up to places like Cessnock, because it's part of our community in the Hunter."
The trial could mean centre Brayden Musgrove lines up against the same Cessnock players he played alongside in last season's grand final victory over South Newcastle.
Musgrove has rejoined the Knights on a train-and-trial basis and is considered a strong chance of snaring one of the remaining two positions in their top-30 roster.
The 22-year-old played in NSW Cup for the Knights in 2018 and 2019, before linking with Cessnock after a brief stint with Manly.